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August 11, 2022

Taiwan: China Seethes While Biden Bumbles

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bold visit was marred by Joe Biden’s weak-kneed refusal to support it.

China has yet to cool its heels in the aftermath of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 3 trip to Taiwan. Late last week, a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that the government was issuing sanctions against Pelosi and her family for her “gross interference” in the country’s internal affairs.

It’s unclear just what those sanctions might look like, but they aren’t likely to amount to much when weighed against the totality of a larger irrational response by the perennially thin-skinned ChiComs.

They have long considered Taiwan a renegade province, and they treated Pelosi’s visit to the island as a serious trespass upon their sovereign territory. They have convinced much of the world, and much of the United States, that Taiwan is theirs. Indeed, the One China policy that the U.S. agreed to in 1979 essentially states that we agree with — or at least don’t oppose — the whitewash that Taiwan, a completely autonomous nation of 23 million people, belongs to China.

It doesn’t. And Pelosi’s vocal and public appearance in Taiwan demonstrates that in a way that makes China fume. It makes clear that China’s interest in Taiwan is not in forging a bond with long lost brothers. Instead, it’s a power grab, pure and simple. Pelosi’s visit was welcomed and met with the “steely nonchalance” of a Taiwanese people who have grown weary of the ever-impending wrath of the People’s Liberation Army.

China sent a blunt signal about the matter when it announced live-fire military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. The ChiComs pounded the open seas with firepower, scrambled their jets, and filled the sea lanes with naval vessels — all in an effort to show that they can isolate the island. The unintended consequence was that they also showed us some interesting things about their military weaponry and tactics.

It’s been said that Pelosi’s trip was designed to shore up the Democrats’ nonexistent national security bona fides. Perhaps, but human rights in China isn’t a new cause for Pelosi. She’s long been vocal about China’s treatment of political prisoners, for example, albeit inconsistently over the years. And as House speaker, she’s failed to translate her personal interest into effective policy.

Hudson Institute senior fellow and Chinese strategy expert Michael Pillsbury brought the issue home: “China seems to be something that’s rhetorically possible to deal with by condemning China,” he said, “but actual cutting off of … American investment in China — that’s a big one. Actually arresting people who engage in economic espionage — not just having cases that [FBI] Director Wray says he has thousands of, but actual arrests and prosecution.”

Whatever the inspiration for Pelosi’s trip — politics or policy — it’s unlikely to help her party. After all, the White House fumbled her trip from the start.

Timid Team Biden never approved of Pelosi’s trip, with Joe Biden himself openly questioning it and thereby setting in motion a series of events that turned the whole episode into a farce. As Biden rambled to reporters before she left, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.” This was followed by a rift between the administration and Pelosi that played out for all to see.

The president should have backed Pelosi’s play. Instead, he showed the whole world his weakness toward China and left his Number 3 (in government and in party) twisting in the wind. He offered no rhetorical support, dissembled about the administration’s official position, and kowtowed to the enemy. It was a shameful performance.

The Chinese surely capitalized on this Democrat debacle, but their military bluster didn’t rattle the Taiwanese or the sense of so many Americans who believe that there is indeed one China — but also one Taiwan.

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